Training camp is finally here, and the Packers still don’t have a bona fide number one wide receiver. Julio Jones signed with Tampa Bay. Odell Beckham won’t be back for a while. Will Fuller might be the only starting level wide receiver as injury prone as Sammy Watkins. Which Packers wide receiver will be the alpha by year-end? Let’s discuss.
Lazard is the obvious choice. Among current receivers, he has the best combination of chemistry with Rodgers and ability. He’s one of the top blocking wide receivers in the league and reportedly slimmed down this offseason. I’ve written repeatedly about wanting him to put on 10 pounds and play tight end, but maybe losing weight is the way to go.
He doesn’t have a great reception perception separation grade and losing 10 lbs would give him basically the same athletic make up as wide receivers like Kenny Golladay and Drake London. If his lack of separation is because he just hasn’t been athletic enough, maybe dropping some weight will give him just enough more burst to separate.
Additionally, Rodgers and Lazard himself are talking about Lazard like he is WR 1.
The key for Lazard is to get consistent. Make plays every week. Get YAC. Keep blocking. Don’t allow teams to cover him with one guy on the backside.
Watkins put the lie to close to 20 years of criticism of the Packers for not taking a wide receiver in the first round. He had everything you want: plus athlete, great college tape, played for a big school, went in the top ten. He just hasn’t put it together in the NFL. A combination of injuries and just plain disappearing have turned a promising young player into just another journeyman wide receiver.
For Watkins, he needs to stay healthy and be consistent. He flashes his potential every year by somehow showing up for 100+ yards and multiple touchdowns in a random week but then just 4 catches over the next six weeks.
I rewatched a few games from last season and was surprised by the level of burst that Cobb showed. He once had the same mind meld with Rodgers as Davante Adams and had probably the best slow receiver season to that point in 2014.
In Davante Adams games last season, Cobb was an also-ran. Not playing a high number of snaps, rarely getting targets, and not even reliable on special teams. But when Davante was out, Cobb was used more creatively. He was on the field with Amari Rodgers some plays, he caught a touchdown when he was lined up in the backfield, he just generally impacted the game.
He doesn’t have the juice he once did, but he’s no bum either. Rodgers once elevated hoodie wearing James Jones to the league leader in touchdown receptions. Randall Cobb could lead the team in targets.
Starting to get tongue in cheek here. While the team was more creative with Cobb when Adams was absent, the offense was built around Aaron Jones. He was targeted on traditional running back routes in the flat and middle of the field but also ran a more diverse route tree and took advantage of slower linebackers vertically.
Don’t be surprised if the team majors in Pony personnel early in the season and in key games. Both running backs can block for the other, both can run outside and inside, and both are effective in the pass game. Of course, Dillon is more effective running inside than Jones and Jones is more effective in the pass game.
Using Dillon on play actions to play with linebacker eyes while targeting Jones could be the backbone of the team’s offense.
We’re now into full blown wishful thinking. With Julio Jones off the board and a host of meh options on the current roster, will Brian Gutekunst finally pull the trigger on a trade for a big-time wide receiver? There were rumors that the team had receiver trades in the work in each of the past three seasons, but no trade has ever materialized.
Now that the team is down the best receiver in the game and Aaron Rodgers could be in his last season, Diontae Johnson may be just good enough to entice the Packers’ GM into pulling the trigger.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.